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Today I had the honour of speaking at The Inbounder conference in Valencia on the subject of paid media and how we as advertisers should be utilising as many of the relevant platforms as possible to channel our audiences through the purchase funnel.
If we look back to the year 2000, when Google AdWords first launched, all we had to target with was keywords. Flashing forwards to 2016, not only have AdWords and Bing advanced so much that we can target our actual audiences within our paid campaigns, we have also witnessed the arrival of many other paid media platforms which all serve a different purpose.
Forget talking about USPs. Businesses try and shoehorn USPs into the marketing strategy but with the sheer number of businesses online, it is becoming increasingly difficult to actually come up with something that is a unique selling point for you. Unless you have launched an entirely new initiative or have something that you offer your customers that your competitors don’t, I don’t believe many of us have real USPs.
However, what we do have that we should be using within our marketing, is our website audience. People that come onto your website belong to you. Your competitors are unable to replicate your audience, which is why it is your Unique Marketing Point (UMP). As advertisers we should be using this to our advantage, not only within our paid media campaigns, but across all our marketing channels.
Once you understand the types of people who navigate their way around your website and what their intentions are, it can get really powerful. I actually spoke on this subject at BrightonSEO earlier this year, and the slides can be viewed here if you want to know more about this.
So many of us look at Paid Media as being a direct response channel; a channel that elicits sales off the back of the campaigns that we run. This is definitely true in some form, but there is so much more we can do with paid media to drive people into the top of the sales funnel, nurture them through their journey, entice them to purchase, maintain a level of loyalty and encourage advocacy.
This is what excites me and makes me so passionate about paid media.
The aim of this post is to show you all the different ways in which we can use paid media throughout the funnel and which platforms and features should and could be utilised. Obviously, as with all forms of marketing, there is not a one size fits all strategy. If you want to do this right and gain the results at the end, you need to devise a paid media strategy that suits your business. This post should inspire you and give you some ideas – but you still need to do the hard work.
If you would prefer to look through the actual slides from my talk, you can do this now. The slides contain actual strategy ideas for example brands that may help you to put some of the ideas into context.
The rest of the post explains the funnel, the stages, and gives you an overview of the platforms and features that could be used. This is my no means exhaustive. There will always be a lot more we can do at each stage but this should give you a nice starting point.
Let’s talk funnels…
Your customers don’t just wake up one morning completely unaware of you as a brand and hop over to Google or Bing and search for your brand name. In an ideal world this would be a fantastic but it is really not the case.
Whether you are doing offline or online marketing, there needs to be a trigger that gets your potential audience’s attention to make them look up from their busy day to day lives and become aware of you.
There are many paid media platforms and features that are designed for this very purpose, but I don’t feel they are used anywhere near as much as they should.
The top of the funnel (Unaware and Aware) is the starting point for grabbing the attention of potential customers. If you miss out this vital first step, you are losing out on future sales. Yes you are likely to pick people up along the way through other paid media campaigns, but surely you want to get as many people as possible in at the top so you have a better chance of converting them at the end.
Once you have caught the attention of a potential customer, that isn’t the end. More often than not, those customers don’t all immediately make a purchase; some will, most won’t. It is at this stage of the funnel that you need to get them considering buying from you. I like to think of this as the reinforcement stage – the stage of subliminal messaging that triggers their attention.
A big thing for me at this stage is making sure that you have a positive presence when a potential customer is searching for you online. They are at the stage where they want to know more about you so they will search for your brand name and look up what people have to say about you. This could be followed up with subsequent searches where they are drilling down more and searching for your brand name + reviews. All these research led terms need to have paid ads served against them. It is all too easy for your competitors to appear at the top of the SERPs and pull your potential customer away and into their purchase funnel.
The sheer volume of companies doing business online now has taught us as humans that we shouldn’t buy from the first company we see. We need to research and find the best company to buy from; whether that is down to price, customer service, or product offering, we all shop around.
This is the Preference stage and it is imperative that you have your offering, your messaging, and your strategy right to stop your potential customers from buying from a competitor instead of you.
One of my favourite tactics at this stage is using Gmail Sponsored Promotions to target people who are receiving emails from your competitors. By uploading a list of competitor domains as keywords in your Gmail campaigns, you can make sure your advert appears at the top of potential customers Gmail mailboxes IF they have received an email from a competitor. If you are signed up to your competitors mailing lists, you will be able to understand the messaging and offering they use and make sure your ad includes an offer that beats the one they have received from the competitor. A sneaky tactic but it can work wonders.
I don’t think this stage needs much explanation as it does what is says on the tin. This is the stage where you want all the hard work you have done to come to fruition, nurturing people through the marketing funnel to actually part with their cash and make a purchase. If you lose them at this stage (you won’t convert everyone) it is annoying, so you want to do as much as possible to get the audience to buy from you.
Paid Media (especially on AdWords and Bing) is great for this stage of the funnel. Let’s face it, it is what it was designed for in the first place, but there is still work involved to get this right.
One of the more recent features that Google AdWords have brought out is Similar Audiences, which basically takes a particular audience segment, dissects the demographic makeup of those within it, and builds a similar audience of people that are not currently aware of your brand. This feature ties the Purchase stage of the funnel to the Unaware stage of the funnel. You can take your learnings from all the people who have made a purchase from you and go out and find a new audience that is likely to buy from you as they appear similar in their sense online. Google released some stats on this feature that show an increase of 41% in conversions for advertisers who have used this feature. Definitely worth a try!
Advertisers often forget that paid media can be used to keep existing customers loyal to a brand and get them coming back to buy again and again. Once we get people to buy, this is often where paid media stops which is why I think there is such a huge opportunity to really capitalise on the channels available to us.
Whether you use Gmail Ads coupled with Customer Match to promote a loyalty scheme or RLSAs to bid on competitor brand names if your existing customer base starts to shop around again, you should be doing something.
You have paid a lot to nurture the audience through to this stage and the cost of maintaining them and increasing their value to you is a lot less than it would be to acquire a brand new customer.
The final stage of my paid media funnel is Advocacy; the stage where we encourage our existing customers to tell their friends about us. People buy from people and when a friend talks about a brand vs a brand talking about a brand, the conversion rate is much higher. If we know that our friends are happy with a product or service, they have done the hard risky work of trying something new, and we can then make our purchase without so much worry or concern that we are buying from the right company.
Recommend A Friend schemes can be great for this. If you reward your existing customers with money off future purchases or gifts if they recommend you to their friends and family, you can really boost your overall turnover from paid media.
There are various ways in which you can promote a RAF scheme, but social channels can be most effective (especially in B2C industries). Friends hangout on social channels, so why not make use of these properly and get them working for you and driving more business back to your site.
Finally, I think it is very important to mention attribution at this point, especially when it comes to paid media. A typical conversion path is very rarely one visit and then a conversion straight away. People research, and like to come back to sites time and time again, sometimes conversion paths can even be in excess of 60 visits before a conversion actually takes place.
If you are looking to pull together a paid media strategy for your business that encompasses two or more campaign types, it is so important that you understand how each plays into one and other and the value that is attributed to each.
With AdWords, the conversion and the value is always attributed to the last ad clicked, which means that quite often you will see display campaigns that are there to drive awareness don’t show much value. However, if you use the attribution reports within AdWords, you will more often than not see that the display campaigns are what initially led the audience that converts through to the site.
Not paying attention to attribution could lead you to make a big mistake by switching off campaigns that on the face of things don’t look like they convert but they are assisting conversions along the way.
If you have any questions about my talk or this post, please get in touch or drop me a message on Twitter @SamJaneNoble.
Samantha Noble is well known within in the search industry, she even won the UK Search Personality 2016 at the UK Search Awards in November. This year, she continues to make an impact on the industry by judging not only one, but three, prestigious industry awards.